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Barack Obama & the War


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As Barack Obama’s anti-war rhetoric is blasted around the country in his attempt to seal the Democratic nomination, his real position on U.S. militarism is being revealed discretely to his political, military, and corporate colleagues.   

Two recent examples prove beyond any doubt that Obama is in total conformity with the U.S. ruling class on the issue of maintaining – or even expanding –  the role of the military in the Middle East. This of course is the complete opposite of what he tells those who fill stadiums to hear him speak.   

General PetraeusThe first example came on April 7th, when both the top U.S. diplomat and military man in Iraq – Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus – came to testify before two separate Congressional committees.  This was an opportunity, the Obama and Clinton campaigns boasted, for the two potential nominees to show they have the ability to perform as the country’s Commander and Chief.  It was quickly evident that during the questioning, both candidates were operating from the vantage point of the military and the U.S. financial interests it protects, not the millions of people who have hopes that either candidate will end the war, as they’ve both promised.

When questioning both Crocker and Petraeus, Obama did not demand that all the troops should come home immediately; nor did he even suggest that they come home quickly.  He made this more than clear when he announced he was against a “precipitous withdrawal.”  His comments about a “phased withdrawal” were vague enough to be interpreted as meaning that the Iraq war will continue in a similar fashion for years to come. The likelihood of this actually happening later increased, when Obama said that it would be “stupid” to ignore the advice of those commanders “on the ground.”  The commanders’ recommendation in this case was that after taking the “surge” troops out of Iraq, troop levels should be maintained, to be followed by an indefinite “wait and see” period.  

Especially disconcerting for those of us who oppose the war were the numerous saber-rattling comments made by Petraeus and Crocker against Iran.  Obama did nothing to point out the dangerous implications of these remarks, but instead added fuel to the fire by claiming that the invasion of Iraq was an especially bad idea because of how much Iran has benefited (not because it was and continues to be a war of imperialist aggression).   

His “alternative strategy” to defend the fundamental “strategic interests” of U.S. imperialism was summarized by Obama himself: “…We have to think about more than just Iraq, that we’ve got issues with Iran and Pakistan and Afghanistan, and our singular focus on Iraq I think has distracted us.” There is not even a hint of anti-war sentiment expressed here.

G.W. BushAnd this leads us to yet another example which utterly destroys any notion that Obama is against the war’s continuation or expansion.  President Bush was so pleased with Petraeus’ war-mongering testimony, that soon thereafter, it was announced that Petraeus would be made the head of the U.S. Central Command, where he would be in charge of operations across the Middle East and Central Asia.  Petraeus is not only a consistent proponent of Bush’s “war on terror,” but has a unique military specialty: counter-insurgency operations (in fact, he wrote the Army’s guidebook). This more than suggests that there will be future military attacks and consequent occupations that will require his particular expertise.  Obama’s response to Petraeus’ nomination? An enthusiastic endorsement: “I think Petraeus has done a good tactical job in Iraq ... My hope is that Petraeus would reflect that wider view of our strategic interest.”

If he is eventually elected President, the contradiction between Obama’s public anti-war face and his real pro-war beliefs will lead to shock and disappointment for millions of people who take his campaign promises at face value.  The need for a political alternative to the two-parties of big business will thrust itself onto the working class’ agenda once again.  A mass party of Labor directly connected to the unions would have the resources to make this proposal a reality.  It is up to the rank and file to demand and fight for its creation.

Socialist Appeal Issue 85

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